Last year I wrote a post about pencil or pen preferences, and what it said about us as people, writers or translators. Discussion in the comments was both lively and intriguing!
I remembered this post the other day, after filling my portfolio with a new pad of graph paper. Once I started writing, I realized I no longer like graph paper. It was a funny realization, because it used to be my paper of choice. It seemed like the perfect time to delve back into a little psychoanalysis, this time on what paper says about us!
As I said last year, I’m a pencil girl. Definitely. Now it would seem I’m also a lined paper girl.
The great Mexican author Carlos Fuentes recently passed away at the age of 83. This New York Times piece says, “He liked to write on the right-hand pages of lined notebooks, making changes and corrections on the left-hand pages before sending a manuscript to be typed.” Yes, Fuentes is my kind of writer.
I don’t come from a family of lined-paper people, though. My mom always wrote on unlined paper and was somehow able to keep each line straight and neat. Mine looks more like a handwritten recipe I have that my grandmother wrote in her eighties, after several strokes: the penmanship shaky, the lines dipping ever lower until, by the bottom of the page, there’s a teensy little triangle that’s the only space left.
My partner, Jon, went to the Waldorf School where they had to write on unlined paper only. I’m sure it had to do with freeing their creativity, not being constrained — a marvellous approach to education, I must say.
But that freedom on the page can intimidate me. I like to have the order and constraints lines provide. I can write anything I want to on that page, but there’s a wee bit of structure. Perhaps that’s why I translate fiction but don’t write it?!
As for graph paper, I really did used to love it, but now find it a little too limiting. It chops my words up, interrupts the flow. So I’ll finish this pad, but that’s it. Graph paper, I’m done with you.
What’s your paper preference and why?